Digital twins in supply chain

What is a digital twin

A digital twin is a virtual image/software representation of a real product, process, asset or service. For example, a digital visualization of an organ used to simulate an upcoming operation. A digital copy can be used for monitoring and control, as well as for planning and forecasting the outcomes of various scenarios. This makes it possible to understand, predict and optimize performance.

For the digital twin to be truly a twin, all available information/data must be linked one-to-one. In some cases, individual digital twins are connected to each other in order to reproduce and optimize twins of an entire construct.

Advantages of digital twins

he benefits that digital twin technologies offer your business include:

  • Increased reliability of equipment and production lines
  • Improved OEE through reduced downtime and improved performance
  • Improved productivity
  • Reduced risk in various areas including product availability, marketplace reputation, and more
  • Lower maintenance costs by predicting maintenance issues before breakdowns occur
  • Faster production times
  • New business opportunities such as mass customisation, mixed manufacturing, small-batch manufacturing, and more
  • Improved customer service as customers can remotely configuring customised products
  • Improved product quality, and enhanced insight into the performance of your products, in multiple real-time applications and environments
  • More efficient supply and delivery chains
  • All the above combined will result in the ultimate benefit of improved profits

 

How do digital twins work and where can they be used?

Digital twins act as a bridge between the physical and digital world. With the help of intelligent sensors integrated into physical elements, all necessary data can be captured and transmitted. In conjunction with relevant business data, this data is then analyzed and, in the best case scenario, can uncover opportunities that may otherwise have gone undetected.

NASA has been using digital twins for many years. This is mainly because the systems it needs to monitor are located at an unattainable distance. John Vickers, NASA’s leading manufacturing expert and manager of the NASA National Center for Advanced Manufacturing, describes NASA’S vision to be able to create, test and build their equipment in a virtual world in the future.

Installing IoT sensors can not only help the company itself, but also increase the efficiency of  its supply chain partners and prevent possible disruptions. But where can digital twins be used in practice? Practically everywhere: You can recognize existing customer requirements, simulate the effects of corresponding trends and thus obtain a comprehensive view of the broad spectrum of customers. In production, current state analyses can be carried out, adjustments can be made if necessary and untapped potential can be identified. In logistics, digital twins can be used to optimize stocks and to track and monitor them through geolocation. Digital twins enable companies to meet their supply chain partners’ requirements to the best of their abilities .

What does the future look like?

Forbes describes the current state of digital twin technology as the threshold to a digital explosion in which significantly more companies will develop and introduce their own digital twins in the future based on success stories of others. The number of digital representatives of physical objects is estimated to be in the billions, which simultaneously opens up the opportunity for cooperation between product experts and data scientists. Gartner predicts that by 2021, half of the major industrial companies will be using digital twins, resulting in an average efficiency increase of 10%.

In addition, experts predict that future developments will be much more likely to involve the combination of individual twins than at present. The fact that the use of digital twins can open up new business fields and models arouses curiosity about the unknown potential of innovative solutions in the future.

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